Ben Henderson

World Class Leaders or Couch Potatoes?

Council has recently approved the “Bicycle Transportation Plan” – but funding is another matter.  We need a comprehensive cycling network. We need to think strategically by putting a modest amount of funding into this project every year.

Why is this so important, strategically?  With more people pedaling to and from work, more cars and trucks are taken off our clogged roads. This is not just about recreation. We need to make bike commuting more accessible, with safer places to ride, better signage and bike trails that don’t peter out in a few blocks.  If they can’t ride safely, people won’t.  A pothole is inconvenient for a car, but can make a cyclist fly off their bike into the nearest tree or car windshield. When it is safe, bicycle riding reduces obesity and builds fitness. We can have a City of Champions or a City of Couch Potatoes.

Yes, it snows here.  Other winter cities, like Montreal, Portland, Oregon and Copenhagen, have improved biking conditions and been very successful to get thousands of cars off the road by making cycling a strategic priority. These cities know that urban quality of life is not compatible with a constantly increasing numbers of cars on the road. They have been remarkably successful because they have made their streets safer and more accessible for cyclists. I have heard from a lot of Edmontonians who would cycle to work if they felt they could ride safely.

When we look at how long our LRT is taking due to funding decisions made over the years, let us hope we can be much faster at succeeding with a Bicycle Transportation Plan. This is a miniscule project compared to so many other transportation projects we have funded. That is the cost of 3 LRT cars each year for 10 years.  We spend 300 million every year just on road projects. This plan calls for one third of that money spread over ten years.  I strongly believe we need to fund this program and not drag our heels.   Edmontonians have taken up RECYCLING very enthusiastically in the last 20 years. This did not come free and was, like bike commuting, a major re-thinking of how we do certain things. Most are proud of how successful that has been, and proud of our World Class facilities.  Now for a tiny portion of that cost we would like the same enthusiasm for CYCLING.  It is time we grew up as a city and followed the lead of other successful cities worldwide.